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New Kruizenga "teaching" art museum nears debut on Hope College campus

It’s been a long time coming, says Matthew VanderBorgh, but now that the Sept. 8 opening is drawing near, the new Kruizenga Art Museum (KAM) is going to be a big deal for the Hope College community. 

VanderBorgh is director of the Netherlands-based design firm C Concept Design and was the architect of the new $7.8 million art facility on Hope College’s Holland Campus, a project he and co-designer Donald Battjes took on pro-bono as a donation of services to their alma mater. 

“When this project was launched, there was no seed money,” says VanderBorgh, who graduated from Hope College with an art degree before pursuing another degree in architecture at Harvard University. “…they wanted a museum that was a little different than the other buildings on campus, they just didn’t want a brick box. With my relationship to Hope, they pulled me in to loosen things up and eventually said, “Why don’t you design it?’” 

At about 15,000 total square feet, about 4,620 square feet of the museum will be open to the greater public with the remainder reserved for back-of-house facilities. Its “double-lung” floor plan was designed not only to demonstrate a diverse collection of art works, with one gallery focused on showcasing Hope College’s permanent collection, but also to highlight on-campus diversity, with the other side of the KAM reserved for rotating and traveling exhibitions. 

“If you look at the GRAM it’s really a public museum, open to the greater state. With the Kruizenga Art Museum, the canvas is really a teaching museum, and that’s what’s unique about it,” VanderBorgh says. “It’s meant to educate students in the same way a biology lab is or a sports hall. Students should be able to easily walk into it -- it shouldn’t be intimidating…”

VanderBorgh says the flame-cut, exterior charcoal slate panels used to craft the exterior were designed to facilitate a classic, modernist style, using architecture that creates a unique fixture against the grain of the predominately red-brick collegiate architecture of the surrounding campus.

“In this case, most campuses should represent the diversity of their students and especially in West Michigan, a lot of campuses are starting to look international,” he says. “…architecture should represent the international, but each should have an individualistic, expressive style. Our building seeks to do that…What makes campuses unique is when you have a collection of different identities on the campus, the same way it reflects the students with different themes and different backgrounds all coming together.”

VanderBorgh created the new aesthetic for Hope College’s KAM alongside donated services from project managers Lisa Warren and Chad Gould of Progressive AE, just another part of what VanderBorgh describes as a community-wide effort with a lot of donated time and money from both alumni and others. 

He likens the project to a concept in the Netherlands called the “polder model,” which refers to efforts by communities in the Netherlands to reclaim land from the sea to create productive farmland. The continuous pumping and maintenance of the dykes require a greater level of cooperation by the various societies living in the shared polders, and throughout history — even in times of war — these communities have still worked together in service of a greater purpose. 

“No one person could do that and no government could do that. It had to be a community of people  — perhaps self-interested — but a community of people working together,” VanderBorgh says. “The museum is a lot like that, too.”

“It was really a community effort, more so than most of the projects I’ve been involved in,” he says. “In that way, the polder represents the effort of the museum in the larger picture. It wouldn’t have happened without a lot of donors, alumni, students, and interns contributing along the way.”

Click here for more information on the new Kruizenga Art Museum, which opens to the public Sept. 8. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Tom Wagner Photographer

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Charles Mason curates connections at Hope's new art museum

GR Scavenger Hunt game seeks to help participants meet, rediscover Grand Rapids

There’s even more to Grand Rapids than meets the eye, and the new activity-based venture GR Scavenger Hunt wants to help you find it. 

Created by local business owners Jill Wolfe and Carol Distel, GR Scavenger Hunt combines elements of games like photo hunts, trivia, and adventure races to bring participants a unique, competition-style challenge in the heart of the city’s downtown.

“It helps to think about Grand Rapids and the people and the places here,” says co-owner Jill Wolfe. “I usually start with the places downtown — whether it's The Calder, Fountain Street Church, Rosa Parks Circle, or the Grand River — and think about the challenges in a way that engages people with those places differently.” 

GR Scavenger Hunt sends competing groups of 2-4 out into the city with treasure hunt checklists and trivia puzzles that typically take about 90 minutes to complete, costing around $20 a head for a private game for events like birthdays or bachelor/bachelorette parties, with a customized gift box from the locally-sourced Boxed GR for first place winners. 

Wolfe says GR Scavenger Hunt has already put on a few events for corporate groups as well, hosting past treasure hunts for groups like Greenstone Financial and Experience GR. For corporate events, they’ll show slideshows of the pictures taken by employees throughout the hunt at the end when they regroup at the meeting spot, which lately have been local establishments like Grand Rapids Brewing Co. and Bistro Bella Vita. 

“With Greenstone, we created a whole list of things…questions like, ‘Find someone born in the year Greenstone was founded.’ Most of them had never been to Grand Rapids so that was fun,” Wolfe says. “We did a treasure hunt for Experience GR, for their team, and that was a little more difficult because they already know everything there is to know about Grand Rapids.”

She says they find ideas for new challenges everywhere, but have had a lot of help from the Grand Rapids Public Library, where librarians have helped them dig through old books and archives in the past. 

“After our first meeting with Experience GR we headed straight for the Grand Rapids Library and the librarians there were very helpful and they pulled out a bunch of books,” she says. “We found a trivia test from like 20 years ago that was a goldmine of things that went on in Grand Rapids that people don’t really know much about or don’t remember.” 

GR Scavenger Hunt is hosting a public event on Sept. 17 in downtown Grand Rapids, with limited spots for participants at $15 per person. 

“It’ll just be a really eclectic set of people that don’t know each other and strangers competing against each other,” she says. “It’s the first public event we’re going to do, so it’s going to be mostly, ‘check off these lists,’ but I think it’ll be awesome and I’m excited to see who comes out.”

The group will also offer a free, downloadable scavenger hunt on its website during ArtPrize 2015, but will still be open to host custom private hunts for both corporate groups and others who want to explore the three-week event from a new perspective. 

“ArtPrize is Grand Rapids, in a lot of ways, and we want to make it more enjoyable for people who maybe don’t pay attention to art very much for the rest of the year and help them get more engaged with ArtPrize at a level of interest that might not be there initially,” she says. 

“I think that Carol and I are just super passionate about Grand Rapids. It’s a great downtown and it's in the middle of a renascence,” Wolfe says. “To be able to interact with the people — that’s, I’ll be honest, one of the best parts of this. The people we interact with have been nothing but helpful and engaged and happy to participate. It’s been really great to see everyone come together and engage in ways they probably wouldn’t have done otherwise.” 

Click here to sign up for the Sept. 17 public event, or to learn more about GR Scavenger Hunt, visit www.grscavengerhunt.com. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of GR Scavenger Hunt

Locally owned Sun Title expands Creston headquarters with 3,000-sq-ft renovation

With four recent hires to Sun Title’s commercial escrow team bringing its total staff roster north of 60 employees, the Creston-based real estate services company is wrapping up new accommodations this week for its steadily increasing commercial title division with a 3,000-square-foot renovation and expansion project.

“Candidly speaking, we’re just out of closing rooms,” says Tom Cronkright, CEO and co-owner of Sun Title. “We did not have enough rooms to accommodate all of the closings we have, especially in month-end.” 

The new office space is connected to Sun Title’s existing 9,000-square-foot headquarters in downtown Grand Rapids’ Creston neighborhood and accessible from its main entrance at 1410 Plainfield Ave. Cronkright says restorations to the 100-year-old building’s original tin ceilings, oyster-tile floors, and original woodwork dictated the interior aesthetic for the new office space, which features four conference rooms, a private lounge and a large staircase to connect the main office of Sun Title and storefront access. 

“It’s a very tasteful expansion and the renovation will flow well with the existing Sun Title building,” he says. 

Cronkright opened Sun Title in 2005 alongside business partner Lawrence Duthler, and he says although they’ve been experiencing steady growth ever since, the past 24 months in the growing region have brought some particularly accelerated growth in the commercial industrial market as retail and rents continue to rise and the sale of vacant land and new commercial construction is up significantly. 

“A lot of the commercial industrial inventory has been absorbed— the spots along hot retail corridors by Woodland Mall, Alpine. Now, we’re still seeing purchase and sale activity, but we’re also seeing a lot of new construction start,” he says, adding that further activity is coming from the many commercial loans in need of renewal as they hit their five-year maturity dates. 

“There’s been so much investment and, I think, good planning that’s taken place throughout West Michigan that we’re really starting to gain traction,” Cronkright says. “We’re hearing about more and more, and experiencing more and more, cases of people from out of the area sending us resumes and saying they’d like to move to West Michigan for work, so from a macro standpoint I think West Michigan is looking good for awhile.”

With offices in Ionia, Grand Haven, Grandville, Cedar Springs and Rockford, Cronkright says Sun Title’s four recent hires all come with strong backgrounds in the industry, adding to the seasoned team of professionals there that have worked in tandem with the rebounding market to see the company through a successful decade of growth. 

“The old saying really is true that if you’ve got a good culture and you surround yourself with great people then you tend to grow, and that’s really what’s happening here,” he says. “Growth wasn’t really a goal, it has just been a byproduct of just trying to do the best job on every file.”

Cronkright sees plenty of opportunities for further growth in West Michigan, and moving forward, he says Sun Title will be focused on improving their communications as well as building up both new and existing talent in the area.  

“Over the next few years, Lawrence and I will be focused on building a great client base and investing in the people within our organization — building leaders, so to speak,” he says. “We have a philosophy that we treat every deal like it’s our last deal. You can’t take the business for granted, not one day. Not in our industry, for sure.”

Designed by Richard Craig from Craig Architects, Inc. with lead construction/project managers from Karns Construction, final touches on the new space will be completed by the end of this week, with next Monday slated for move in. 

For more information about Sun Title, visit www.suntitle.com. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Sun Title

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Despite down housing market, Grand Rapids title company adds jobs, profitability

Creston-based title company innovates new business model, adds eight jobs

90-year-old building in Grand Rapids' Creston district renovated for Sun Title expansion

Sun Title's 30 percent growth spurs hiring of 15; three more positions left to fill

Creston Market re-opens after renovation with fresh produce, craft beer selection, new look

New commercial kitchen at the Muskegon Farmers Market promotes entrepreneurship, nutrition, and food

Housed at the Muskegon Farmers' Market, the new rentable commercial kitchen, Kitchen 242, was designed in the spirit of a two-fold mission: first, create a space where food entrepreneurs can make a low-risk investment in developing their new business and centralize other strategic resources that can help them succeed along the way; and secondly, provide a more engaging avenue for educating the community about nutrition and healthy food. 

“It was modeled as 60 percent entrepreneurs and 40 percent education, and what we’re hoping is that we can start to build on the education piece,” says Dana Gannon, education and event coordinator for Kitchen 242 and a nutritionist with the Muskegon County Health Department. 

At 1,520 square feet, Kitchen 242 boasts all of the fixings of a fully-furnished commercial kitchen, including a range, griddle, convection and conventional ovens, cooler, workspace, and cold/dry storage. The kitchen is equipped with professional quality appliances for cooking and refrigeration and includes a selection of pots, pans, and sheet trays that can be used onsite, but all other small wares like foil or plastic wrap are left to the individual renters. 

The space is available to individuals, organizations, and new businesses at hourly rates of $20 for prep work, and $25 for baking, processing, or catering. Block rates are also available for the kitchen space with advanced reservation, designed largely to eliminate long-term leases and facility management/maintenance costs for new entrepreneurs looking for a workspace. 

Gannon says as a bonus feature, any individual who rents out Kitchen 242 is also eligible for a free stall at the Muskegon Farmers' Market, complete with a promotional banner. 

Kitchen 242 was formed in a collaboration between the Downtown Development Corporation, the Muskegon County Health Department and Pioneer Resources, who received a $200,000 appropriation form the budget of the Department of Agricultural and Rural Development to help fund the project, with additional donations from Trinity Health and other area organizations. 

Kitchen 242 comes during a campaign for federal funding launched by the city to create a new downtown food hub, Gannon says. Both the community kitchen space and plans for a future food hub crafted in a collaborative effort are intended not only to spark more economic growth in downtown Muskegon, but also to help address the disparity in access to fresh food and nutrition education that has put the region near the bottom of the county health rankings for the past decade. 

“If we can make this a education kitchen, as well, then we can change the dynamic and the face of Muskegon, working to make Muskegon one of the healthiest counties by 2021,” Gannon says. 

For more information, visit Kitchen 242's website or find them on Facebook here.  To learn more about how to start your own food-related business, check the Michigan State University Product Center online and explore its how-to guide for getting started. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Kitchen 242

Ferris Coffee plans to test drive new Trust Building location with ArtPrize pop-up shop

Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. announced plans last week to create a pop-up coffee shop for the three-week ArtPrize 2015 event in downtown Grand Rapids, with the intention of making its new space on the ground floor of the historic Trust Building a permanent second location by next spring. 

“We’re thrilled with the location. It’s a very historic building with very old bones,” says David VanTongeren, director of retail at Ferris Coffee & Nut.

Almost one year after successfully launching its flagship location on Grand Rapids’ west side at 227 Winter Ave., VanTongeren says the coffee roasters feel perfectly poised to expand the Ferris Coffee brand — and with ArtPrize 2015 promising some guaranteed foot traffic, there was no time like the present.

“We were approached by Sam Cummings at CWD (Real Estate Investment) with the opportunity and after talking with them, it all fell into place that this was the perfect time to expand our coffee footprint and build a shop on the other side of the river,” he says. 

Family-owned and operated since 1924, Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. operated a mobile coffee truck outside of the B.O.B. for the past two ArtPrize seasons in 2013 and 2014, using the opening of its Winter. Ave location last fall to not only increase production capacity, but also open a new coffee education center called The Foundry, intended to create a more mindful and collaborative coffee community. 

It’s part of an arguably growing trend in the downtown Grand Rapids business community to gain brand recognition for small businesses through collaborative event-based efforts such as the recent July 12 Great Vegan Grand Rapids Pop-Up Bakery, for example, which was hosted by Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters at its home on Godfrey Ave. SW and, over the course of three hours, drew hundreds of customers to help increase sales and brand recognition for six area bakeries. 

The new Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. pop-up shop will sell a limited menu of classic espresso beverages and brewed coffees from Ferris’ tier two and tier three offerings during the three-week ArtPrize event, alongside seasonal, non-alcoholic coffee-based cocktails. 

“I think Ferris is unique in having the quality of coffee we offer and [being] able to do it in a very high-volume setting,” VanTongeren says, adding that when the new location becomes permanent in March 2016, the roasters are exploring the addition of new menu items. 

“We are looking at non-coffee options for beverages so whether that’s something alcoholic or non-alcoholic, we’re open to branching beyond just coffee,” he says.

For more information, visit Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. on the web or find them on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Ferris Coffee & Nut

Calvin CRC opens doors to bigger, better Eastown clothing distribution center

Nearly a year after beginning construction on an expanded clothing distribution center at 1515 Franklin SE, Calvin Christian Reformed Church celebrated the completion of the new 5,500-square-foot space with a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony last week. 

Launched over 45 years ago as part of the church’s Family Assistance Program, Calvin CRC’s clothing distribution center serves 3,000 Kent County families annually through a network of service agencies ranging from Head Start to the Kent County Health Department. 

Bobbie Talsma is director of the Family Assistance Program, and says by the end of 2014, the entirely volunteer-run operation was able to serve 3,300 through 34 agencies and 79 caseworkers, poising the organization’s efforts for another 30 percent growth in the coming year. 

This year, the congregation has served 1,137 people despite being partially closed for the relocation during the months of January and February. 

With double the storage space, separate designated donation and pickup areas, on-premise laundry facilities, a playroom for volunteers with children, and other overall efficiency upgrades, the Calvin CRC congregation raised $600,000 to cover the total cost of the project.

“Every dime we get in contribution goes to the Family Assistance Program, not a dime of overhead costs come from the donations,” says Talsma, who works alongside and directs the anywhere between 28-35 volunteers who make the program possible. 

Calvin CRC’s Family Assistance Program has also adopted new hours with the new location. Though they’re still open only twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, hours have been extended later into the afternoon, now operating from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in an effort to accommodate the schedules of professional caseworkers who are responsible for picking up orders placed via email system for the families they work with. 

“There are things we have to do to be more accessible if we want to serve more people — and we do, we want to serve more people,” Talsma says. “When you read in the paper that 22 percent of our children are homeless and they’re going from place to place, church to church; we really want to serve those people…we are blessed to bless others and we will bless as many people as we possibly can.”

Though the program has no intention of opening up to the public in general, the new space is allowing them to strengthen a relatively new partnership formed between Calvin CRC’s Family Assistance Program and the Grand Rapids Jaycees to bring winter coats, snow pants, mittens, hats and boots to students in the Grand Rapids Public School district. 

“Public schools aren’t so much aware of us, NOT only because they didn’t ask, but a teacher can see if a child has a need,” she says. “I understand that some of their resources have kind of closed down, so we’re open to serve them, too, along with our professional counselors from Head Start and other professional services like Arbor Circle and Bethany Christian Services.”

Designed by congregation member Dan Bode of The Architectural Group, Talsma says the new space brings about a few a welcome — and fitting — changes from the older, cramped southeast side home volunteers used to operate the program from. 

“We didn’t have to fit into place, the place was made to fit us,” she says. 

For more information about the church's new clothing distribution center or its Family Assistance Program, visit Calvin CRC online

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Calvin Christian Reformed Church

Related articles: 
Calvin CRC's expansion project hopes to build on outreach programs, record service numbers

Developers gear up for opening of The Morton in heart of downtown Grand Rapids

With only one month until The Morton’s official opening date, Rockford Construction’s Vice President of Real Estate Development Mike Mraz says he looks forward to the project’s completion as the last piece of the puzzle for downtown Grand Rapids’ core redevelopment. 

“We’ve been active in downtown real estate redevelopment for over 15 years and to see the vast number of changes that have occurred in the city center in that time period is really remarkable, especially with a recession in the middle of that,” says Mraz, whose firm began initial cleanup work on the building in December 2013.

Originally opened in 1972 as the Morton Hotel after the former National Hotel was destroyed by a fire, the hotel was remodeled in the 1970s to become the 220-unit Morton House Apartments, which closed in 2011.

The developers bought the 170,000-square-foot building at the end of 2011 for $5.8 million, receiving funding in part from the Downtown Development Authority, who awarded Rockford Construction Co. with a $50,000 building reuse grant for the renovation of the facade, a $35,000 grant to help fill the areaway, and another $35,000 grant for a new sidewalk and streetscape work along Ionia Avenue.

Additionally, the DDA agreed to reimburse Rockford partners 75 percent of the tax revenue the building will generate, which over the next decade totals out at $1.5 million. The Brownfield Redevelopment Authority also chipped in, providing a no-interest loan of $400,000 for the remediation work — asbestos removal and other cleanup — from its U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated Revolving Loan Fund.

With a fourth floor outdoor courtyard and an approximately 500-square-foot indoor space for residents to exercise and bathe their pets, The Morton will also feature amenities like a 24-hour fitness center and an exclusive discounted membership to the nearby MVP.

Originally 13 stories, Rockford Construction developers added a 14th floor to house luxury condominiums, with the lower levels featuring 25,000 square feet of commercial space and the second floor a handful of apartment units and other building amenities. The third floor has 15,000 square feet of commercial office space, and the remaining floors are all reserved for residential units. 

“There’s an indoor community room so people can host an event or a birthday party or anything there and that’s coordinated through our staff.” Mraz says. “We have the indoor pet play area and wash area and I think that’s going to be really popular. We’re attracting people with pets already and that was quite a nice amenity they mentioned by name and partially the reason they wanted to live there.”

Expected to draw 175-200 new residents who will live, dine, and shop at The Morton, Mraz says the new mixed-use is the perfect topper to a decade of redevelopment that is dramatically changing the city’s urban core. 

“So, seeing this building’s redevelopment as really the last piece of the puzzle — it’s not only just a building, but it’s more than that. It’s bringing that level of critical mass that is needed to keep a street like Monroe Center active and engaged,” he says.

For more information on The Morton, or to see floor plans for specific apartment styles, visit www.themortongr.com or visit The Morton on Facebook.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Rockford Construction Co. 


Global design strategy consultant ThoughtFull opens new flexible studio space in East Hills

It’s only been a little over two weeks since global design strategy and innovation consultants at ThoughtFull opened the doors to its new Grand Rapids offices, but ThoughtFull Partner Tom DeVries says having a physical location in town has already made an “amazing impact” on how the firm is able to engage with clients on a local level. 

“It’s resulted in an explosion of new business for us locally,” says DeVries, who started Thoughtfull abroad alongside partners Geoff Suvalko and Hudson Smales before opening its second location in the 1,200-square-foot space at 975 Cherry St. SE.

“We wanted a neighborhood that was turning around or had begun the process of turning around and we wanted a neighborhood where businesses were catering to empowering trend behaviors and attitudes,” he says. “Something more progressive; all things we represent to our clients.”

Though the firm first found its footing in the global market working with clients that include Air New Zealand, Amway, Auckland Public Transportation System and World Vision, the partners want to move ThoughtFull forward by working backwards -- that is, by taking their global experience to local clients as part of a larger mission of community revitalization.

With enough workspace to accommodate a roster of research, design and strategy team members that ranges from anywhere between 8-14 strong, DeVries says ThoughtFull's new East Hills office isn't intended to be as much of an office space as it is a studio space, the minimal interior design deliberately chosen to afford total flexibility with how the space is used. 

“The way we think about it is as a blank canvas…We can transition the entire space into something that it’s not right now at a moment’s notice,” he says. 

“For example we might be working on a project where we discover that there’s a challenge between how a retail customer engages on a cell phone and in physical retail store, so what we would do in that circumstance — after having researched human behavior activity and what approaches other businesses are taking — we would create a retail environment where we build prototypes of solutions where we could engage the customer and make the whole thing real in less than a day,” he says. 

By simulating the actual environments in which customers will engage with organizations, ThoughtFull’s approach to building client’s design strategies represents both a practical and philosophical commitment to making things tangible. 

“The knock on design and designers working in business environments is that designers don’t finish things and they don’t make things, they just work in concepts,” DeVries says. “We have a lot of designers on our team, so I wanted to be very explicit with our team and say, ‘We make things, we make ideas reality.’” 

He says ideally, ThoughtFull will find more nearby real estate to expand operations into, allowing the current space to be dedicated exclusively to staging. He also hopes they'll be able to equip the space with tools for building the kind of pseudo retail environments that ultimately arm ThoughtFull with the unique perspectives and insight it has made its name by. 

DeVries says he and his partners see a lot of room for growth in the local market and as a Grand Rapids native, he feels inherently invested in the success of the city’s larger downtown redevelopment and the growth of the region in general.

“There are politics everywhere, but it’s still a small enough community that if you’re doing the right things, people will respond and you can build momentum from there,” he says. “There’s already a momentum building here and it’s an exciting thing to wake up and say, ‘How can we help?’” 

Visit www.thoughtfulldesign.com to learn more. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor 
Images courtesy of ThoughtFull 

Kilwin's downtown GR chocolate kitchen bounces back from February flooding with upgraded space

Kilwin’s Grand Rapids owners Julie and Tim Calderone just did not see it coming.

“It was a water pipe in the ceiling,” says Julie Calderone, who opened the downtown Grand Rapids chocolate kitchen at 146 Monroe Center St. NW just four years ago on the ground floor of the historic McKay Towers. 

“We had pipes literally freeze in the ceiling, so when they ruptured, all of the water from McKay Towers came flooding in and we lost everything,” she says. “Walls, ceiling, floors — everything.”

It’s taken a few months to complete renovations on the 2,210-square-foot retail space, but Kilwin’s is back in business — this time boasting some upgraded interior fixtures and more hand-made confections to choose from than ever before. 

The revamped Kilwin’s will still carry the same breadth of Tillman’s property products they have in the past, only now Calderone says they’ve doubled the store’s fudge selection and allocated more floorspace for their “fudge window,” where customers can look in and watch expert artisans making signature Mackinac Island Fudge on a new 1,100-lb. marble table. 

She says business has really taken off again since Kilwin’s June 30 reopening, partially attributed to their four-month absence, but also, she says, to a very productive convention season in downtown Grand Rapids. 

“Anytime Grand Rapids does something to bring people downtown we do better as a business, so we’re always appreciative of that,” she says. “We’ve just had a really nice welcome back from the community,” Calderone says. “I think the community missed their sweet treats.”

Kilwin’s downtown Grand Rapids location is currently open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and on Sundays from noon to 8 p.m., but hours change seasonally, so visit www.kilwins.com for more information. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Julie Calderone 

Habitat Kent partners with GRCC students to wrap up construction on MI's first LEED Gold v4 home

Dedicated back in April, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County has completed construction on the first home in Michigan to meet new LEED Gold v4 standards from the U.S. Green Building Council located at 730 Oakland Ave. SW. 

“We had a started this process looking at LEED v4 when USGBC was announcing it was going to come out as mandatory within this year,” says Corri Sandwick, a Habitat Kent construction team member and LEED standard specialist. “We started going down his path and then USGBC has delayed the official date until October 2016, but we decided to go ahead to continue to pursue LEED v4.”

In additional to the previous LEED requirements, the updated standards include higher energy, water and resource efficiency standards. Under the new LEED Gold v4 standards, Habitat Kent homes are armed with specific features that reduce carbon footprints; for example, water heaters that use a closed combustion system to pull fresh combustion air in from the outside, reducing the need for fresh air intake and improving efficiency and additional testing measures — including pre-drywall, infra-red camera testing and blower door tests, which help ensure quality of the thermal envelope. 

Brandyn Deckinga is project manager for Habitat Kent’s 730 Oakland Ave. SW project and says the newly certified LEED Gold v4 home was part of the Grand Rapids Community College 100th anniversary build, with the majority of construction led by students studying green construction in the GRCC Tassell M-Tec program. 

“We brought the class, along with their professor, out (to the home) and they did all of the things we do with the volunteers,”  says Deckinga, adding that during the build, students gained more practical experience in learning about sustainable design, the LEED for Homes program and efficient building practices that go beyond typical code-built homes. 

“One of the big parts in making a house energy efficient is the air seal, so we took an extra step and did blower door tests, which basically test how air-tight the home is,” Deckinga says. “With the students, we could look with an infrared camera and a smoke pen to see where the leaks were.”

Though USGBC will not officially launch LEED v4 until October 2016, Deckinga and Sandwick say Habitat Kent plans to continue to certify all new homes using the upgraded standards.

“We want our homeowners to be able to live in our homes comfortably and we want them to be able to live them 40 or 50 years. We want our homes to be safe and energy efficient so they can afford the utilities,” Deckinga says. “…When people stay in their homes, we see that helping the community by people taking ownership of their homes.” 

Click here for more information on LEED v4 standards or visit www.habitatkent.org

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Habitat for Humanity of Kent County

Father-son architecture firm brings 'warm contemporary' aesthetic to new west side offices

Over the past year and a half, the father-son team behind Mathison | Mathison Architects has hired five new architects to join the growing firm, recently moving out of a cramped home office and into new downtown Grand Rapids digs at 560 Fifth St. NW, suite 405. 

With nearly 35 years of notable West Michigan projects attached to his name, Principal Tom Mathison formed Mathison | Mathison Architects with his son Evan in October 2013.

“(My son) came to me and said, ‘I want to have my own business, I want to do that here in Grand Rapids and I’d like you and I to work on this together,” Mathison says. “It was an opportunity I couldn’t really pass up.”

Prior to creating his new architectural firm, Mathison was a senior principal and the chairman of his previous firm's board of directors, working on big-ticket projects that included the new Civic Theatre, Kent County Courthouse, and the downtown Grand Rapids Federal Building. He has also led projects for K-12 school districts in West Michigan and higher education facilities including Grand Valley State University, Western Michigan University, Michigan State University and University of Michigan. 

Also a trained architect, son Evan earned his undergraduate degree at University of Michigan and completed his graduate work at Harvard University, residing in Boston for about eight years before returning to his hometown to work alongside his father. 

“He did some outstanding special projects,” Mathison says, citing the redevelopment of the New York City waterfront, Boston’s downtown greenway and “a whole series of really wonderful residential projects.” 

“He’s pretty widely accomplished — one of his projects was featured on HGTV,” Mathison says. “He brings a lot of really cool skills and aesthetic that we think will resonate here in West Michigan.”

He says there’s a real market for the kind of design Mathison | Mathison prides itself on, which is to say, a style they’ve dubbed “warm contemporary,” using the build site’s natural assets — its relationship to natural light opportunities to take advantage of the sun, for example — to create natural-lit, open spaces that serve as an extension of the outdoors.

“There’s also the transparency between indoor and outdoor spaces — the in-and-out balance — where we’ll open out walls and create large areas of glass to extend the eye past the horizon,” he says, citing a residential space in Silver Lake the firm recently completed for which the design includes tiered walls that retract completely to become an outdoor patio space, complete with its own outdoor kitchen. 

“We are modernists, but we’re not necessarily into styles,” he says. “More so just really clean lines, transparency and the relationship between the building and the existing site.”

Mathison | Mathison architects are currently working on a community living project in downtown Grand Rapids called “The Nest,” which he says his firm has designed for a fairly straightforward functionality, but with careful attention to detail when it comes to sustainable practices. 

“It’s going to be a great project and one that will be kind of emblematic of what’s possible within the given housing stock of West Michigan and Grand Rapids in particular,” he says. “This house will show what’s possible within the existing framework of neighborhoods and communities and that’s one of the things that drew us to this project — the high level of sustainability and the fact that it translates so well to the existing neighborhood there.” 

The architects began moving into their new offices at 560 Fifth St. NW just last week after making a few cosmetic upgrades like natural wood fixtures to complement the abundant natural light the 2,100-square-foot west side space already affords them. 

Though the new offices have opened with a staff roster currently topped at seven, Mathison says they’ve secured room for the addition of anywhere between 12-15 people.

“Our goal is not growth for growth’s sake; we just think there’s a good market for the kind of work we’re doing,” he says. “Our goal is not necessarily to be the biggest firm — I think our growth will just happen sort of organically as we need to meet the demand. Our goal really is to focus on the quality of our design and to do really special projects.” 

For more information, visit Mathison | Mathison Architects online

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Mathison | Mathison Architects 

GR city planners to review new mixed-use development plans from ORES, Concept Design

After officially submitting a project proposal to the city of Grand Rapids last week, developers at Orion Real Estate Solutions are planning one last neighborhood meeting July 23, open to the public and aimed at giving community members another opportunity for discussion about its proposed 47-unit apartment complex at 1 Carlton Ave SE.

“Orion Real Estate Solutions has been evolving and improving the proposed Fulton/Carlton development for more than a year now and based on valuable feedback we’ve received from the neighborhood associations and the city zoning department we feel we’ve hit the mark with a project that improves the neighborhood on many levels,” says Orion Spokesman Jason Wheeler. 

The redevelopment includes the construction of two new buildings — the first a four-story mixed-used building with 3,200 square feet allocated for ground floor retail space and 3,500 square feet for a ground floor restaurant. The second new building will be a three-story, solely residential building slated for new apartment units. 

ORES is working alongside Concept Design to redevelop the new space, and Wheeler says though it is too early to suggest any concrete timeline for construction, ORES hopes to begin this fall pending rezoning approval by the city. 

“If all goes well, this will be the second time we’ve taken vacant land and transformed it into a place to live, work and experience the culture of Eastown,” Wheeler says. “We love what we do as developers and creating a concept that the community embraces is our goal. ORES hopes to deliver a project that acknowledges the community’s input and respects the cares and concerns of the neighborhood.”

For more information, visit www.orionbuilt.com. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of ORES/Concept Design 

Historic Grand Rapids Pike House becomes new home for lawyers at Keller & Almassian

Restored to its former glory by architects at Design Plus back in 2007, the historic Pike House at 230 E. Fulton in Grand Rapids is now home to law firm Keller & Almassian

The two-story, 18,500-square-foot Pike House is on the National Register of Historic Places, its four massive Greek columns first dragged to the site by ox cart from Port Sheldon back in 1844 by the building’s namesake Abram W. Pike.

“A lot of the credit for that goes to the previous owners, Design Plus,” says Todd Almassian, whose firm acquired the property back in October 2013. “They bought the property in 2006 and they did a marvelous job of bringing the property really to its grand status that it has now. They did significant improvements to the interior.”

Its previous office located on East Beltline, Almassian says he and his law firm knew they wanted to look for a new space closer to the city that still afforded them on-site parking and room for future physical growth. 

“The space just really worked out well for us in terms of having plenty of parking on-site. That was a primary concern for us. There was room in the building for growth — that was something we needed,” Almassian says. “It’s right down the street from bankruptcy court and we’re primarily a bankruptcy law firm so that makes it nice in terms of accessibility. We wanted to spend the rest of our careers as downtown attorneys and all of the other aspects associated with that.” 

He says he thinks having a downtown location is beneficial to most businesses and business people simply because it organically facilitates more physical movement, more impromptu conversations with colleagues, a greater sense of community and investment in seeing the downtown thrive. 

“It’s such a vibrant downtown now and everybody is really focusing — both I think personally and professionally — on seeing downtown as a real hub of the greater Grand Rapids area for social and for work. We just found that a relocation would be beneficial for us and it has been.”

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Keller & Almassian, PLC

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The Yoga Studio opens doors to new location in East Hills' Blackport Building

For The Yoga Studio instructor and owner Kat McKinney, leading the transition to a larger studio space was a lot like putting together a puzzle. 

“The space, the location, it's lovely. It reminds me of being up in a little tree fort,” she says. “The one drawback is that it's second floor and it's not accessible.” 

However, after persuading the Blackport Building landlord to install a fully functional lift to make the entire building ADA accessible, McKinney says the final picture was pretty clear: The Yoga Studio had found its new home. 

“I thought, ‘Okay, that's the last piece of the puzzle,’” she says. “It all works out. The universe said go.” 

With a background in physical therapy and a teaching certification in the Iyengar tradition, McKinney was able to equip The Yoga Studio’s new space in 959 Lake Dr. NE with a rope wall, which acts as a tool for a host of exercises, ranging from simply providing a source of extra support for beginners to creating an avenue for more advanced students to explore more complex stretches.

“Overall — in both Grand Rapids and around the country, too — yoga continues to become more and more popular,” says McKinney, who, after a deliberate transition nearly five years in the making, is now the sole owner of The Yoga Studio, taking over for founder Carol Heines. 

“Once, many, many, moons ago, Carol was only the game in town but now there's a studio pretty much on every corner. We’re pretty classic, pretty traditional, in how we function. That has not changed.”

When all is said and done, McKinney says The Yoga Studio’s new space, complete with its rope wall upgrade, serves to support an idea as simple and understated as the tradition practiced within its walls — yes, you can do yoga.

“What we find often is folks who come in and are a little apprehensive because they've tried a class somewhere else and found it was just too much,” McKinney says. “…They’d find us and realize, ‘This is what I've been missing.’ They realize, 'Yes, I can practice yoga.’”

“That’s the best thing ever,” she says. “When someone is thrilled with what they can do because we’ve taken the time to actually provide instruction — we don’t simply lead classes.” 

The Yoga Studio is offering free classes to the public July 6-10 to break in the new space, but will also host an open house on July 24 to show off its new digs to the East Hills community. To learn more about The Yoga Studio, or to learn how you can enroll in free classes, click here or visit The Yoga Studio on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Kat McKinney/The Yoga Studio 

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JGR Real Estate overhauls former Stockbridge pawnshop to create new, modern office space

When Julie Grevengoed first opened JGR Real Estate back in 2009, the second-floor East Hills agency was born into a tricky time for the housing market. 

In the past six years, however, Grevengoed’s real estate and brokerage agency has managed to find its place in Grand Rapids’ residential market and as a result has recently opened its doors in a newly renovated Stockbridge storefront located at 600 Bridge St. NW. 

“I was in East Hills before and I loved it there — it has a great business community and was a great space — but I was outgrowing it,” says Grevengoed, who worked with Wolverine Building Group over the past few months to bring a run-down former pawnshop into the modern age with a massive rehab effort that brightens up its 2,500-square-foot ground floor with an open floor plan, clean lines and big windows. 

With the lease on her former Cherry Street offices up, Grevengoed says she noticed the space within the first 24 hours it was posted. At first glance, it wasn’t much to look at, but she says the building’s original tin ceilings won her over 

“I walked in and it's got these really cool tin ceilings and even though everything wasn't as great, that was something that I thought, 'Man, this could be really cool,” she says. “…It was just one big room when I got it and even though I'm using it as offices, I still wanted to maintain kind of an open feel, so we have a lot of windows.”

She says the residential housing market is in significantly better shape than it was when JGR Real Estate first opened its doors in 2009, and because her agency also includes a brokerage arm, she’s had more agents coming in to work under her license in the past few years.

The new space, she says, opens her agency up to a new residential market on Grand Rapids’ west side and allows for JGR Real Estate to continue to grow more comfortably. 

“I'm excited about this place because I have so much more room,” Grevengoed says. “I was really reserved in trying to ask people to come on board with me because I just didn't have a place to put them, but now I do so that's great.” 

To see before and after photos of the dramatic transformation of its new Bridge Street office space, click here to find JGR Real Estate on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of JGR Real Estate 

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